In 2002, about a third of workers in the motor vehicle and parts manufacturing industry worked, on average, more than 40 hours per week. Overtime is especially common during periods of peak demand. Most employees, however, typically work an 8-hour shift: either from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or from 4:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., with two breaks per shift and a half-hour for meals. A third shift often is reserved for maintenance and cleanup.
Although working conditions have improved in recent years, some production workers are still subject to uncomfortable conditions. Heat, fumes, noise, and repetition are not uncommon in this industry. In addition, many workers come into contact with oil and grease and may have to lift and fit heavy objects. Employees also may operate powerful, high-speed machines that can be dangerous. Accidents and injuries usually are avoided when protective equipment and clothing are worn and safety practices are observed.
Newer plants are more automated and have safer, more comfortable conditions. For example, these plants may have ergonomically designed work areas and job tasks that accommodate the worker’s physical size and eliminate awkward reaching and bending and unnecessary heavy lifting. Workers may function as part of a team, doing more than one job and thus reducing the repetitiveness of assembly line work.
Workers in this industry experience higher rates of injury and illness than do workers in most other industries. In 2002, cases of work-related injury and illness averaged 12.1 per 100 full-time workers in motor vehicle and equipment manufacturing, compared with 7.2 in all manufacturing industries and 5.3 in the entire private sector.
As in other industries, professional and managerial workers normally have clean, comfortable offices, and are not subject to the hazards of assembly line work. Improved ergonomics help office and administrative support workers avoid repetitive strain injuries, but employees using computer terminals for long periods may develop eye strain and fatigue.